Save The Archives

Zero. Zilch. Nichts. Nada.

Zero. Zilch. Nichts. Nada. That’s what the Indiana General Assembly did about funding a new building for the Indiana State Archives during the session that ended this spring. Credit (if that’s the correct word) for this situation can be shared widely.

If an historian were chronicling the last couple years of the State Archives saga, she would highlight the great hopefulness shared by many not long ago. Progress was occurring. After our prodding and encouragement, the administration of Governor Mike Pence pushed a new State Archives building as part of the 2016 Indiana Bicentennial effort. The state hired architects and engineers to begin planning a new building. The governor contacted Indiana University about locating the Archives building on the downtown Indianapolis campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Funding for construction would come from leasing cell towers located on state-owned land around the state to telecommunications companies. The plan advanced.

But the governor took his eye off the ball. Tapped to be a candidate for Vice President of the United States, he traveled the country campaigning instead of staying at home to try to win reelection. The first problem cropped up when the governor’s funding plan brought forth loud complaints from Indiana telecom companies that the lease deal favored an Ohio competitor. Responding to the protests, Pence’s successor, Gov. Eric Holcomb, early this year nixed the deal, thereby eliminating the funding source for the new building.

Then the new governor decided not to ask the General Assembly for funding for the Archives building. The legislators, who two years before had voted support for building the State Archives, then decided they had other matters to worry about and dropped the issue completely. Finally, the Trustees of Indiana University took off the table an agreement with the state over a location.

No location. No funding. No groundbreaking. No building. All we have are the bills to pay the architects, engineers, and consultants the state hired. This result has been disappointing. We are exasperated by the lack of follow-through and consistency.

But we are not deterred from our goal. We are planning for the future. The Archives are still in an unsafe “temporary” location. The amount of records housed there increases yearly. The citizens of Indiana still need a new State Archives building. It is our responsibility to hold state officials to their duty to protect the records that preserve citizens’ rights and privileges.